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Roger Goodell: NFL ‘wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier’

“I personally protest with you and wanted to be part of the much-needed change in this country,” he said.

2020 NFL Draft - Round 1
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Friday saying the league should have supported player protests.
Photo by NFL via Getty Images

The NFL was wrong to not listen to players who peacefully protested, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement and video issued by the league.

The statement was stronger than the one he issued last week in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the subsequent protests. But Goodell did not mention 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by name Friday, and the release came at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time — a slot that typically earns fewer media views than the rest of the work week.

“It has been a difficult time for our country — in particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said. “First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery and all the families, who have endured police brutality.

“We, the National Football League, comdemn racism and the systematic oppression, of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and wanted to be part of the much-needed change in this country.

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

This week, Bears players suspected the league would react more favorably to protests this year than they did in 2016, when Kaepernick began keeling during the national anthem. He hasn’t played in the league since the end of that season. The NFL passed a rule to regulate what players do during the anthem, but, after union pushback, never attached punishments to violations.

Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said Wednesday the NFL “attempted to silence” Kaepernick and said that he, and other NFL players, did not protest for fear of losing his job.